Church Charge Conferences are family gatherings. When the family of faith gathers for reports and celebrations of those who are living out their callings in passionate ministry and effective mission. Though each local church is required to conference individually, it’s when we conference together with our neighbors we see we are all in the family business of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Last Sunday evening, we gathered as representatives of our individual local churches and celebrated as a family of churches in the West Cobb area of greater Atlanta. We heard of ministry and mission of children’s choirs, backpacks of food for children in nearby elementary schools, USO support, Teach 1 to Lead 1 mentoring, and starting new faith families in shared facilities. We heard a word from our District Superintendent, received communion and a blessing to go and be the church. This falls completely in my lap for where my head has been for the last several months for ministry with children.

What if there was a hub of collaboration where we offer developmentally appropriate faith formation experiences for children in connection with other local churches? More local? More connected? Where it doesn’t matter how ‘big’ or ‘small’ the individual churches are, because we are mightier together? Where we do what we do individually on Sunday morning to meet our individual culture and DNA, but we plan to go out together?

If our mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, what is our best YES for resources and faith formation that is developmentally appropriate at specific age levels?  Please hear that I hold no judgement in programming. This is just where my head has been as it’s time to make plans for next summer. Yeah, before Trunk or Treat, Kidmin champions look to the next summer. This is our world!

The best way for kids to know Jesus is to know people who know Jesus and not just in their own house, among the greater body of Christ. I’m thinking steps, not programs. I’m thinking faith formation experiences and not just week-long day camps. Leading children into experiences they would not have participated in on their own with Jesus at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end. Then give kids a chance to talk about it. Giving kids a regular diet of ‘how we go’ and ‘how does Jesus go with us?’ Where the local church is not just a venue for Christian activity, but the heartbeat of Jesus as we desire to become more like Jesus rather than only learn about Jesus. Beyond the collaboration of a Winter Ball where the host is responsible for most everything.

I’m thinking of ‘going experiences’ where we partner with other Kidmin champions (the director or super volunteer of several local churches). Where chaperones see a team of 2 or 3 or more Kidmin champions building energy, engaging in the faith formation experiences specific to a kid’s developmental age/stage, so the chaperones can’t bear to only lean against the back wall on their phone as if this event (anything special outside of Sunday morning) is no different than a school field trip to the CNN center.

Think a Fish & Faith trip to an aquarium for fourth graders where three or more local churches of differing sizes travel together as one, learn sacred vocabulary, engage in faith formation steps that begin before the trip, developmentally appropriate study in the midst, creatively journal/document, engage in holy conversation AND mischief, with kidmin champions who take on different aspects of the teaching and leading so to invite all learning styles to play well together (I don’t like to hike long distances, but I will hike…just keeping it real, ya’ll). Where these fourth graders meet up in the years to come at camp or recall, “I remember that time we went to Chattanooga with my church and ….” A faith formation experience that is connected with other kids, other Jesus followers, and sticks in their memory as part of their journey with the One and Only who calls us friend. Where the fourth grader invites a friend to meet his other friends, not just ‘come to my church.’ Where the feel is more like a large group of small groups who share in a day of faith formation experiences.

Think a fifth grade trip to a local monastery, a second grade hiking experience up Stone Mountain with the kids of a local church in that area then back to their church to play (there’s no quicker way for a kid to feel he/she belongs than when they play together), a third grade trip to an archaeological dig in LaGrange, a kindergarten day experience where we serve…, where first graders engage Jesus at …., where multiple local churches collaborate to get the leg/phone/planning-work done. I have served in churches with few children, but desired to offer them a ‘Big Jesus’ experience with the greater church and I’ve served in a church with hundreds of children, but desired to offer them a ‘Personal and Intimate Jesus’ experience that goes beyond the walls  and critical mass of Sunday morning. This I know: it takes a ‘Sunday-AND’ approach for a closer walk with Jesus for all of us…little people, too.

My sentences are run-ons, my thoughts are still tangled. The most amazing people in my district networking group have agreed to unpack these musings together as that hub of collaboration mentioned earlier in this post for next summer. More to come. It’s a different model of ministry with children where their faith formation experiences are greater than what only one church can provide, where we are tasked with making Jesus real and relevant in ALL areas of our lives in the building and outside the building, where we slow down our community through small group experiences which are more intimate and memorable, where a church with two kids can provide a shared faith experience with four other local churches’ twenty kids and…here I go, thinking in run-on sentences again. What are you thinking?

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17